But it took a hugely controversial finish to fall in England's favour to secure the win, with Owen Farrell involved in a last-play TMO review for what appeared to be a shoulder tackle on replacement Andre Esterhuizen.
Referee Angus Gardner and Irish TMO Olly Hodges reviewed the tackle after the former had initially blown for full-time, but deemed it just on the side of legal to hand England a hugely important victory.
The win gives England back-to-back wins over the Springboks, which is all the more impressive given the number of players that Eddie Jones was missing from his squad and the lack of ball carriers they had in the pack, and it is the perfect preparation for welcoming the All Blacks to Twickenham next weekend.
South Africa took the lead in the first half through a Handre Pollard penalty that Farrell soon matched, although by that point Maro Itoje had been sent to the sin-bon for repeatedly infringing. But the Springboks hit the gas soon after Itoje's return that saw the wing Sbu Nkosi spring over in the corner, with Pollard missing what would prove a crucial conversion.
England landed an immediate response as Farrell struck his second penalty before the break, but after half-time England spurred into life. Elliot Daly stepped up to strike a 49m penalty that nudged England into the lead, and while Pollard was able to put the Springboks back in front, England's defence set the tone for their attack that suddenly started to click. Farrell was given a late chance to win the match for England seven minutes from time, and although Pollard was given his own chance a few minutes later, his effort just shaved the outside of the upright to hand England victory.
So how did the players perform? Click on the gallery above to see our player ratings.
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